March 2015

SportsTurf provides current, practical and technical content on issues relevant to sports turf managers, including facilities managers. Most readers are athletic field managers from the professional level through parks and recreation, universities.

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36 SportsTurf | March 2015 Hunter IndustrIes: sensor tecHnology for sports turf managers Managing sports turf irrigation is not the same as managing landscape irrigation. Looking good is only a part of the game and the "game" is what it's all about. The bounce of a ball, the set of cleats, and the other elements of game play are all affected by irrigation applications. The pressure has been on to demon- strate water savings, while providing safe and effective playing fields for athletes. Modern irrigation controllers have been getting smarter, many through optional plug-in devices that improve efficiency and automate application amounts. While no one device is a total solution for an athletic field superinten- dent, each may provide a unique benefit. Consider some of the following options for improving irrigation efficiency: Climate sensors. Sensors that moni- tor atmospheric conditions have the ability to shut off the sprinklers when it rains, which we hope is standard in any irrigation installation. Now, relatively inexpensive and simple sensors also have the ability to contribute far more to wise irrigation management. Evapo-transpiration (ET) is what's driving the plants need for water, so monitoring ET is the key to keeping plants healthy without waste. Some atmospheric sensors monitor solar radiation (in addition to rainfall) as a key component for irrigation adjust- ment, as well as other factors. The simplest arrangements use the control- ler's Seasonal Adjustment factor to raise and lower the sprinkler run times by a percentage, corresponding to the percent change in daily ET. Atmospheric sensors offer ease of placement, service, and general reliabil- ity. A single sensor in the air (with direct exposure to sunlight and rainfall) is able to make an accurate estimate about the moisture loss in the landscape, and assist the controller in adjusting applications on a daily basis. This is the principle behind Hunter's Solar Sync sensor. It's also possible to use the ET sensor as a reference tool, so that the irrigation manager can refer to the percentages before manually increasing or decreasing run times on the actual playing surface. Hunter's ACC and I-Core controller have selectable adjustment by program, if the most critical watering must be done manually. Some ET sensors are available with wireless options, so that the distance from the controller to the optimum sensor location is not a limiting factor. Soil moisture sensors. Soil mois- ture sensors offer the ability to make precise measurements in the actual root zones of the irrigated plants. While this is better than the "educated guess" an atmospheric sensor can make about soil conditions, it may require more sensors spread throughout the installation, to give an accurate picture of the total area. Since by definition soil moisture sensors are in-ground, wiring, commu- nication, and maintenance needs may be higher to keep the information flowing to the controller. It's still a significant advan- tage to know what's actually happening in the root zone. Combinations: climate & soil. At least one solution incorporates both sensor technologies. The inexpensive Solar Sync atmospheric sensor can be combined with a Soil-Clik soil moisture sensor, to provide a more complete picture with a minimum of extra hardware. The Solar Sync provides general irrigation adjustment for climate con- ditions, and the Soil-Clik prevents unnecessary irrigation with a single, carefully-placed soil probe, with user- adjustable shut off levels. Both can be connected to the full range of Hunter controllers at the same time. Flow meters. Meters that measure actual water use and feed this information directly to the controller are a valuable component of the water-conscious sports irrigation system. "What can be measured, can be man- aged" is an industrial proverb that is just as important in the sports irrigation scenario. We can't know how effective our efforts have been without monitoring usage, and comparing current results to the past. Flow monitoring can also be used to prevent expensive damage to valuable surfaces, by detecting line breaks and other malfunctions and using a master valve to halt undesirable flow. Hunter's Flow-Sync can be added to any ACC or I-Core controller for advanced flow monitoring. Wireless remote controls. Many controllers are now equipped for simple, convenient remote controls. These handy devices allow the manager or maintenance crew to start or top irriga- tion, by station or program, for a variety of uses. Update on irrigation controllers IRRIGATION & DRAINAGE Editor's note: Many turf managers are or soon will be facing water use restrictions. We asked irrigation equipment manu- facturers to send us information on their newest ET-based and/or soil-moisture controllers for use in sports turf, as well as updates on any recent research on controller technology and any news regarding new apps that are now available that relate to irrigation control. Here are the responses we received:

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